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New Orleans Mint Coins 1838 to 1909 New Orleans Mint
The history of rare Gold Mint Coins is also the history of America. In 1795, the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia began striking Gold Coins to establish a sound, uniform currency. America was on the Gold Standard and was valued under $20 an ounce.

In 1803 when Napoleon sold the “Louisiana Purchase” for $15 million, he demanded payment in Gold coins. Likewise, Lewis and Clark carried Gold Mint Coins when they explored the west to the Pacific.

Famous for French Culture, Paddle Wheelers, and Coins  
By 1812, Louisiana was admitted to the Union as a slave state. That same year, Robert Fulton’s steam-powered riverboat made the first successful trip down the Mississippi to arrive in the city she was named for, New Orleans. Paddle wheelers soon lined New Orleans’ harbor loaded with bales of cotton and other goods bought with Gold Coins.

In 1830, New Orleans was the primary port of entry for expansion into Texas and the wild west. During these days, there was an acute shortage of hard currency in the form of U.S. Gold Mint Coins.

By this time, the Philadelphia Mint was striking Gold coins at full capacity, yet unable to mint enough Gold Coins needed for trade in a growing America. To resolve the Gold coining problem on the Western Frontier, Congress decreed that a new branch mint be opened in New Orleans, Louisiana to mint coins.

The New Orleans facility was clearly the most colorful of all branch mints, having struck Legal Tender for the United States, the State of Louisiana, and the Confederacy. Because collectors search out coins with an interesting history or that exhibit special credentials, collectors love mint coins with the “O” mint mark from the famous New Orleans Mint.

Mint Strikes First Coins in 1838
The year was 1838. The Gold strikes in Georgia, combined with the wealth created on the Southern Plantations, kept the original United States Mint in Philadelphia working at capacity.

The mint could not strike Gold Coins fast enough to keep up with the demand for hard money. In those days, hard money was real, minted in solid Gold or Silver. Unlike today’s paper money that is backed only by a promise from the U.S. Government, currency of the 1800’s was truly “worth it’s weight in Gold.” (And it still is today.)

The Coins That Got Away From Jesse James
As a result of the shortage of hard currency, Congress enacted legislation to open its first branch mint in New Orleans. The goal was to reduce the distance that Gold had to be carried from Georgia and western frontier Gold mines. These were the 1800’s when the Apache Indians still controlled most of Texas and outlaws like Jesse James were a serious threat to banks and US Gold shipments.

Put in perspective, New Orleans was a key port of entry from Europe to the Southern States during the Wild West Days. It was on the edge of the Western Frontier of the United States. Only a few decades before the mint was opened, New Orleans was a part of the Louisiana Purchase from Napoleon and France.

Why Collect Pre-Civil War Era Coins?
When official operations began at the New Orleans Mint in 1838, things were slow in getting started. Early mintages were quite low due to the limited capacity of the older presses which had been shipped in from the Philadelphia Mint.

New Orleans Stamp Today, higher grade, Pre-Civil War, New Orleans Gold coins are among the most highly prized of all U.S. Rare Coins. The original mintages were very low and most of the coins were immediately put into circulation at banks and quickly worn out.

In no time, the soft Gold Coin surfaces were worn down from handling. Later, they were often removed from circulation and melted down for their Gold content.

A Great History and Unique Tradition
The next part of the New Orleans Mint story is clearly the most fascinating for history buffs. At the outbreak of the Civil War, the Confederacy needed money and fast in the form of Gold Coins that would be accepted for trade in Europe. 

In short, the Confederacy needed U.S. Gold Coins. In 1861, the New Orleans Mint was seized by the State of Louisiana, and then mint personnel were forced to strike U.S. Coins using the existing U.S. Mint presses and coin dies. Later that same year, Jefferson Davis, the President of the Confederate States of America, decreed that the mint in New Orleans strike coins for the South.

As a result, 1861 dated coins were struck at the New Orleans Mint by all three government entities–the Union, the state of Louisiana and the South. Sadly, from the point of view of collectors, it’s impossible to tell the coins apart because they were all struck from the same set of dies.

The New Orleans Mint struck Gold coins in denominations from $1 to $20 Gold pieces. New Orleans Gold Coins were struck in seven decades:  1830's, 1840's, 1860's, 1870's, 1880's, 1890's, and 1900's. In addition, it struck a variety of Silver coins including the famous
Morgan Silver Dollars.
A 12 Piece New Orleans Gold Set
  • Type One Gold Dollar (1849-1853)
  • Type Two Gold Dollar (1855 only)
  • Classic Head Quarter Eagle (1839 only)
  • Liberty Head Quarter Eagle (1840-1857)
  • Three Dollar Gold Piece (1854 only)
  • Liberty Head Half Eagle Without Motto (1840-1857)
  • Liberty Head Half Eagle With Motto (1892-1894)
  • Indian Head Half Eagle (1909 only)
  • Liberty Head Eagle Without Motto (1841-1860)
  • Liberty Head Eagle With Motto (1879-1906)
  • Type One Liberty Head Double Eagle (1850-1861)
  • Type Three Liberty Head Double Eagle (1879)

Modern Mints Today red arrow U.S. Mint Philadelphia | U.S. Mint Denver | U.S. Mint West Point
Southern Branch Mints red arrow U.S. Mint New Orleans | U.S. Mint Charlotte | U.S. Mint Dahlolenga
Western Frontier Mints red arrow U.S. Mint San Francisco | U.S. Mint Carson City

This site is a "Guide to United States Mint History" and is privately owned for the education and entertainment of coin collectors.  We are not affiliated directly nor indirectly with the United States Mint or any government agency.

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Click here for links to the official United States Mint site and more on the history

Recommended Websites of Austin Rare Coins, Inc.

Austin Rare Coins & Bullion | U.S. Precious Metals IRA | Rare Coin Hall of Fame | Rare Coin University
Live Gold & Silver Prices | American Eagless Research | Famous Shipwreck Coins | Silver Information Network
Gold Coins & Bullion Specifications | All About U.S. Silver Dollars | Ancient Gold Coins